The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead: A Historical Analysis of Her Samoan Research

By Derek Freeman | Go to book overview
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14
Coming of Age in Samoa and
Boasian Culturalism

GETTING BACK" TO NEW YORK ON OCTOBER 11, 1926, after "four glorious months in Europe" was, as Mead confided to Stella Jones of the Bishop Museum, a "dreadful strain." At first, "it was very hard to get to work" at nine and to be there "until five every day." By October 29, however, she was "getting along beautifully." 1

Gladys Reichard, who some years earlier had taken over from Franz Boas at Barnard College, was in Germany on a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, doing research on Melanesian design. Thus, during the academic year of 1926-1927, Ruth Benedict became instructor in anthropology at Barnard, with Margaret Mead as her assistant. By October 29, Mead had done her "first teaching" and had "gotten over" her "first fears" on that front. On October 25, "wearing the aura of her year in the 'romantic' Pacific isles," she presented a lecture, "Rank in Samoa," to a joint meeting of the New York Academy of Sciences and the American Ethnological Society. She had also written "six chapters" of her report to the National Research Council. She had been able to make this flying start because of the detailed discussions she had had with Ruth Benedict during the weeks they spent together immediately before their return to New York. Mead was, moreover, a very rapid worker. In a letter to A. R. Radcliffe-Brown from New York dated July 1, 1935, she wrote of turning out her Arapesh monograph "at a stint of 20,000 words a week." 2

At the American Museum of Natural History, she had been given "a grand office" in the sixth-floor tower. Her first assignment as assistant

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